My Conversation with Chancellor Gene Block

Bumped. A must read post giving us a disconcerting look at the mindset of Chancellor Gene Block who displays lack of awareness and understanding concerning the state urgency to re-establish his imploding football program. - BN Eds.

Just got back from the "UCLA on the Road" event with Chancellor Block; pretty nice affair with a pretty packed house. I'll give the UCLA Alumni Association credit for knowing how to put its best foot forward. I came away feeling pretty good about the university. The football team? Well, here goes:

The Chancellor's spoke at length about his three themes for UCLA: (1) Thriving, (2) Transformational, and (3) Inspirational. If you were internally LOL'ing about how this was the exact opposite of our football program, well, let's just say I was thinking exactly the same thing.

Act I

During the broad Q&A, I (thought I) was chosen to ask a question but apparently the guy next to me decided it was him and jumped right in. Fortunately, it was related to football. Unfortunately, he took the tactless (IMO) route of asking if we were going to fire Neuheisel. The Chancellor was obviously not interested in answering an uncomfortable question so provided his expected "Hey, did anyone watch the Cal game?", after which the crowd all supportively clapped and cheered. End of answer. FAIL.

Act II

After that disaster, I decided I wasn't going to be a salmon swimming upstream asking football questions to a room of people who were hooting and hollering a victory over a mediocre Cal team, and thought best to wait until the end of the program to approach the Chancellor privately. So after we finished hearing a lot of sunshine talk about how we should proudly display our UCLA pride and did an 8-Clap, I made a beeline for Mr. Block. The play by play (at least as best as I can remember) and my two pennies on it are after the jump.

Me: "Chancellor Block, I did not want to put you on the spot with another football question during the program, but I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about it now. Can you speak to your administration's view towards our football program"

CB: "All of our athletic programs are important, football is one of them, but it's one of many important parts of our university"

Me: "I agree, I don't mean to appear shallow and I am glad we're doing a lot of important things at UCLA, but as our most publicly facing institution, are we as committed to the program as we need to be? I am not talking specifically about our coach, but more broadly about our financial commitment"

CB: "Let's keep this in context, I would say our Medical program is our most publicly facing institution, and yes, we are committed to our football program as we are to all of our programs. We want it to succeed. Who says we don't care about Football."

And that was that. I could tell he was not very interested in continuing a dialogue, didn't seem very happy with me, and wanted to turn his attention to some other alumni, so I thanked him for his time and walked away. Sorry I couldn't be more hard-hitting, Woodward and Bernstein-style, on him, but as a guy with a non-journalist background, I tried to do my best.

My Two Pennies:

I came away with a confirmed view that the Chancellor is a nice guy, committed to the betterment of our university, but relatively uninterested in our athletic program. He probably feels it's important to put football in perspective of other athletics and the university as a whole (and perhaps I don't have the best appreciation for everything on his plate), but I think he is still undervaluing the importance of a strong football program to drumming up school pride, interest, and yes, donations.

I get it; our school is a sum of many different parts, but I think there was a cognitive dissonance with respect to drumming up interest in the university, while pretty much ignoring the importance of our most public-facing institution in doing so. 

My verdict is Dan Guerrero is going nowhere unless he brings shame / embarrassment (not the 59-0 or 48-12 kind) to the school. 

Other items of note (because I'm not that one dimensional, and hopefully you all aren't either):

  • The school received the most applications of any university in the nation last year
  • For the first time in its history, UCLA undergrads contributed more to their tuitions than the state
  • The state still provides a contribution equivalent to a $6B endowment, so by no means is the school on its way to full privatization
  • International/out-of-state undergrads are currently 18% (highest ever) of the freshman class, and Block expects that number to stabilize at that rate (by comparison, Virginia is 30% and Michigan is 40% out of state)
  • An undergraduate business major is being heavily discussed, and a high priority among students (and personally is meaningful to me; as an MBA I wish we leveraged Anderson more for our undergraduates)

Go Bruins.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.